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Review: 'Swallow' is One of the Best Films of 2020

by Megan Kearns
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Aug 4, 2020
Review: 'Swallow' is One of the Best Films of 2020

Consumption is often tied to women's bodies. "Swallow" is a powerful feminist film about a woman (Haley Bennett) struggling to cope with the rigidity and constraints of marriage, pregnancy, and gender roles. She asserts control and independence through dangerous means. Written and directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis, it features an outstanding, subtle performance by Bennett and explores eating disorders, abortion, and mental health. It's one of my favorite films of 2020.

Hunter is a housewife living a seemingly idyllic life. But she's in a beautiful cage. Beneath the veneer, her husband (Austin Stowell) manipulates and abuses her; her boundaries continuously breached. She swallows various objects: needle, rock, marble, battery, safety pin. It's unsettling and disturbing to watch. She saves these trinkets as trophies, displayed on a bureau. Consuming dangerous objects allows Hunter to seize control and declare her bodily autonomy, which also enables her to feel pleasure. Hunter reclaims her body, grows bolder, and finds herself.

Now available on Blu-ray and DVD from Scream Factory with IFC Midnight, "Swallow" boasts jaw-dropping, exquisite cinematography by Katelin Arizmendi, which looks gorgeous in high-definition 1080p.

This is an incredibly sensitive, nuanced portrayal of pica, an eating disorder where people eat inedible objects. Writer/director Carlo Mirabella-Davis shared with Filmmaker Magazine that his grandmother, who had obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), inspired him to write the script. Involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital by his grandfather, she tragically suffered shock therapy and a lobotomy. Seeing a photo with the contents of someone with pica's stomach also inspired him.

The special features include an audio descriptive track, for people who are deaf or hearing-impaired, and the original theatrical trailer. It's wonderful that it's disability accessible. Unfortunately, there are no additional special features. It would have been great to hear interviews with director Mirabella-Davis and actress Bennett or to see behind-the-scenes featurettes. There's much to analyze in this resplendent, thought-provoking film, I wish additional special features had been included to provide more details.

Scream Factory, in conjunction with IFC Midnight,
Blu-ray, $22.97

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